Rights group worried about alleged delays in Zimbabwe elections

The International Crisis Group (ICG) says it is worried about alleged voter delays in Zimbabwe’s urban cities, adding that this could create election credibility problems.

In an interview with News24 on Monday, senior consultant, Piers Pigou, said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should encourage a more speedily voting process across the southern African country.

Earlier, Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa warned that there seemed "to be a deliberate attempt to suppress and frustrate the urban vote".

Chamisa expressed his concerns on Twitter but declared that "Victory is ours!"

The vote in Zimbabwe's major cities remained crucial to the opposition while rural areas traditionally back the ruling party. That could benefit President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

"Well, there has been a big turnout of voters, but we are going to be able to assess everything when the polls close at 19:00. The allegations by the opposition party are serious concerns, but legally people who are on the line when the voting station closes they should be allowed to continue to vote. More people are likely still coming to cast their votes and it is important for the Zimbabwe Election Commission to ensure that the vote goes on smoothly," said Pigou.

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Pigou said that it was also a major concern that the electoral body appeared to have only charged the country’s leading opposition leader for campaigning after the campaign period had passed.

Both president Mnangagwa and his rival Chamisa gave statements on Sunday a day after the cut off time for campaigning.

He said: "What's good for the goose is good for the gander. If the ZEC has not taken any action against Mnangagwa it does raise some serious concerns. The referee must be seen as being neutral, but well in these elections the ZEC was hardly neutral. If we can judge the polls now, they may have been free, but they were hardly fair because of many reasons, as for their credibility we would have to make pronouncement after the polls.”

Reports indicated that the electoral body had referred to police at least two candidates who might have violated the law by campaigning after the cut-off time.

The chair of the commission refused to name those who had campaigned after the cut-off time during a press conference but the candidates were likely both Mnangagwa and main opposition challenger Chamisa, reported the Associated Press.  

Violations could be turned into a criminal or civil case.